I found this book in the small press section of Powell's in Portland and bought it expecting a bit of afternoon entertainment while I waited for a flight back to the East Coast. While I was definitely entertained, I was even more taken aback at the way in which Fattaruso constructs, with brilliant minimalism, a truly thoughtful, emotional treatise on the title object, the bicycle. Each page is filled with not more than a few lines, often but a single sentence, but each thought, almost lost in the middle of the blankness of the page, contains some startling moment of wisdom, as if casting a new light on the mundane or, more profoundly, giving us new eyes with which to take in the light that's already there. While the individual moments are great, it's their cumulative effect that is most moving. Somehow, by the end of the story I knew "bicycle" like I know a character in a novel, but not one specific bicycle; I knew the concept of bicycle. That concept is expanded out into all the things that it could mean, beyond the physicality and the utility of the object itself. Fattaruso's nonspecific bicycle embodies sadness and regret and humanity and mystery and, in the most rewarding moments, joy.
In talking about the deepness of this book, I've yet to hit on the initial reason I bought it: entertainment. While it is doing all those other things I listed above, it is always entertaining. It is clever and funny without forcing itself upon the reader. It is quick to read. I read it twice in a coffee shop, then thumbed through my favorite passages a third time. Since then, I've read through it once more. The illustrations, which appear intermittently throughout the text, are themselves insightful interpretations of the bicycle, deconstructing and decentering it. And that's the power of the book as a whole, this decentering, shifting the reader's mind away from the everyday consideration of an everyday object. I'm always grateful when a book is able to grant me a new perspective.